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MOCA Fires Chief Curator After 22 Years On The Job

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(credit: John Shearer/Getty Images for MOCA)

(credit: John Shearer/Getty Images for MOCA)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Museum of Contemporary Art has fired chief curator Paul Schimmel, a respected art world figure who was at odds with board members and director Jeffrey Deitch over the direction of the museum.

Schimmel, who headed the MOCA curatorial staff for 22 years, was let go Wednesday after a vote of the museum board. Several sources told the Los Angeles Times that he was summoned to the office of billionaire art collector and philanthropist Eli Broad, MOCA’s top funder, and told of the board’s decision.

Many people knew Schimmel and Deitch barely spoke and disagreed over what course the museum should take, but others expressed surprise at the firing, The Times reported. There also was dismay at the way the museum handled the termination, which was first reported on a New York gallery blog, then disseminated widely on Twitter.

Hours later, MOCA issued a terse announcement: “Paul Schimmel is stepping down as MOCA’s chief curator. It’s amicable…”

Schimmel and Deitch had competing visions for the museum, according to The Times.

Although Schimmel is known for staging popular shows like a 2007 retrospective of the artist Takashi Murakami, he also developed serious, research-driven exhibitions that took on entire art movements.

Deitch was hired as MOCA’s director two years ago, shortly after the museum emerged from a financial crisis. His gallery Deitch Projects in New York City was known for exhibitions and special events that combined visual art, the underground music scene and other facets of youth culture, which the MOCA board members who chose him hoped he could bring to the museum.

Among the shows he has organized at MOCA were the successful 2011 “Art in the Streets” exhibition, featuring works by the late actor Dennis Hopper, and unconventional exhibitions and events featuring actor James Franco.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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